"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, August 05, 2019

"Signs point to...."

I knew a guy in high school who claimed he could put a "hit" on anybody you wanted him to.  He wouldn't do it; he knew a guy who would.

Or knew a guy who knew a guy.

Warning signs?  No, because I lost track of him, but his name was distinctive, and it's never come up in a news story since.

So what is a "warning sign"?

We already incarcerate more of our population than almost any country that isn't Russia or China (maybe we top the list, I'm not sure).  How much more surveillance will we require to prevent mass shootings?

By the way, there have been 250 mass shootings in America in 2019.  That includes gang violence, but that's more shootings than there are days in the year so far.  What other country comes close to that tally?  We're #1!  With a bullet!

Sorry.  I can resist anything but temptation.

Is this a case where we need more government?  More incarceration, more ways to keep guns away from people who "shouldn't have them" because of "the signs," and if that means keeping people away from guns, so be it?  Because the alternative, keeping guns away from people, is apparently intolerable.  People are expendable.  Guns are a constitutional right!

So, how much surveillance?  How much further do we go?  I was teaching Auden's "To the Unknown Citizen" this morning, pointing out how the government imagined there is not far from our own.  It is a government that seeks only to keep behavior within prescribed norms; it cares not a bean about the "inner man," the internal life, the private thoughts.  Indeed, these are irrelevant, as inner thoughts become outer actions, and for the unknown citizen there were none.  So he must have been happy and free.  8 years or so after that poem Orwell would write 1984, positing a government consumed with controlling individuals right down to their private thoughts, their most intimate actions:  the ultimate surveillance state.  Auden's vision is not so dystopian.  He means more to mirror modern society rather than reinvent it as horror show.  That is our world, one where are encouraged to be good workers and consumers and hold the right opinions at all times (about which, see this Esquire article on Beto O'Rourke's comments re:  El Paso, comments which deserve wider circulation than they seem to be getting).  But now we need to push our world closer to Orwell's vision, if we want to get guns out of the hands of "madmen."  Isn't that right?

I once punched my brother in the mouth, in a fit of uncontrolled adolescent anger.  If not for his braces, I'd have knocked a tooth out. I still have the scar on my knuckle.  Warning sign?  Not so far, but who knows?  My life isn't over yet.

Signs are signifiers, they represent something else, something more than what the sign itself is.  A stop sign represents the authority of government to control traffic, or more commonsensically, a regulation for the benefit of all, usually enforced by common consent than a police officer.  Billboards represent the "good life" or something we desire or just need to know (an insurance agent, real estate agent, lawyer even).  When are signs, signs?  When is behavior predictive?  Am I a violent person because of an outburst of violence 50 years ago?  I knew a man who was reportedly mickle in his wroth and quick to throw his fists when he was 20.  I knew him in his '60's, and he was a gentle soul who reminded my of my grandfather, one of the gentlest men I've ever known.  Was that man's youth a sign of his future?  What sign of the future are we looking for?

The fact is, the future is impenetrable, and the signs aren't there.  Asked for a sign of the end times, Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars.  Well, when have there not been?  Every verse of the Bible that could conceivably be used as the basis for a prediction of the future has been used, over and over again, for 2 millennia; and they haven't been right yet.  How much better are we going to be at reading the "signs" of imminent danger in a person living their ordinary life, buying, perfectly legally from a gun store, an assault rifle and magazines and ammunition?  It's true, they are weapons of war and mass destruction, but it is legal to own them.

In Dayton, Ohio, the shooter used a ".223-caliber high capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines." Police responded in 30 seconds, but that was enough time for him to shoot nine people dead and maim 27 more. Why the fuck is it legal for any civilian to possess a weapon capable of this kind of damage in this small amount of time? It is a weapon of mass destruction. There is no reasonable argument that it is needed for self-defense, or for recreation, or to defend against a tyrannical government. The people who chant "if you ban guns, they'll use knives" every time we watch dozens of our fellow citizens get mowed down never account for the fact that these weapons are damage multipliers. There is no goddamned way he could have stabbed 36 people in 30 seconds. Only a weapon of war would allow him to do that, and in America, anyone can get ahold of one easily. We have limits on what weapons you're allowed to own. No civilian is allowed a tank or an RPG. Add these weapons to the list.
But we don't add them to the list; we add people, instead.  We would ban people, take them to our overcrowded courts, ban them for life from walking into a gun store to buy a gun, then lament the fact our ban on them didn't stop them from getting that gun as a "legacy" from "grandpa," because "2nd Amendment" (which says nothing about grandpa or legacy inheritance, but does mention a "well-ordered militia" and the "security of a free State," which somehow never comes up in discussions of what the 2nd Amendment means).  Ironically, you still can't own a machine gun; but in this day and age, you don't need to.  If that ban didn't work, do we lock them away to keep society safe for guns and guns safe for society?  Why not?  My 2nd Amendment rights mean you have to step off, and if you think "possession" means title and clutched in your hands or identified by a bill of sale, you need to learn about the legal system.  Because "possession" means nothing more than custody or control.  A felon "in possession" of a firearm can just be a felon in a car with a gun also in the car.  That's possession; that's illegal.  And to keep society safe for guns, we put that felon back in jail.  Shall we do that for people we decide are mentally ill?  It's become our go-to solution for society's problems:  lock 'em up!  Would that be a sign of our resolve?

Or a sign of our madness?


Blogger Mark Smeraldi said...

A second amendment "originalist" argument would be that the right of people to own single shot smooth bore muskets shall not be abridged.Any other arms, including nuclear , fall in the continuum from total state monopoly to state-limited availability. Hunters(and the NRA) have long accepted without complaint limitations on shotgun magazine capacity in the interest of duck conservation.Why human conservation is considered not fit for dialogue is above mypay gradeparently.

6:41 PM  
Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

It is our total inability to notice that the Constitution as it really is has failed in the first reason for government to exist, to protect us, that I find most discouraging. The Supreme Court overturning gun laws enacted by the Congress and State Legislatures, with or without the various executives on the basis of the text of the Supreme Court, even as the body count mounts more quickly than it has in any war the United States engaged in, proves that the U.S. Constitution is the root problem. It's not only the Second Amendment - which is interpretable to such a disastrous consequence, it is the First Amendment which allows the media campaign that has been the induced mass mental illness that this is a symptom of. Not only the symptom on display in the mass murderers, but, more so, in the people whose votes put the depraved in office to enable our murders. It is the delusion of legal minds that because some 18th century men, long, long dead, wrote those amendments so perfunctorily and in such abbreviation we must allow this to continue that might be called the original mental illness that prevents us from protecting our very lives with the hardest of lessons of experience. I think you have to have gone to an elite university to get that disease, it seems to be where most of them got it.

6:15 AM  

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